Keith Raspberry: AgrAbility opened his eyes to new opportunities

Keith Raspberry standing next to portable chicken coopKeith Raspberry is an Army veteran, retired electrician, and now a successful beginning farmer.  On his Hickory Hill Farms in suburban St. Louis, he raises, processes, and markets poultry.

In addition to all the challenges of livestock production, Keith must daily face another battle: transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that can cause severe pain and limited mobility. Keith indicates that this condition “left him like an infant for about six months,” in that he had to relearn how to walk, talk, dress, and feed himself.

His poultry operation requires bending, stooping, and lifting to move his portable chicken coops over several acres of uneven terrain twice daily. He also has to scoop manure despite muscle aches, joint stiffness, lack of stamina, and sensitivity to heat and cold.

The Missouri AgrAbility Project has been helping Keith learn and implement more efficient and effective methods to make his job less painful. For example, AgrAbility’s customized farmstead assessment indicated the need for mobility devices, farm implements, water lines, and fences to reduce physical barriers and the chances of secondary injuries. AgrAbility also provided opportunities for him to network with other underserved farmers through events, such as the AgrAbility National Training Workshop and Missouri’s beginning farmer/veteran conferences.

“I would say to any farmer that has not experienced AgrAbility, you need to get up, open your eyes, and take a look. AgrAbility has helped every farmer that I have spoken to tremendously. With AgrAbility, and a little will [of your own], you’ll be able to go a long way.”